Joan Mellen has a superb new page turner, hashing out the dark side of Lyndon Johnson, ‘Faustian Bargains’ (Bloomsbury Pub, NY, 2016). Joan Mellen is ensconced in her role as the premiere biographer of her friend, New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison. “Garrison couldn’t escape the agency anywhere he turned in his investigation”, stated the author. Garrison’s trial versus Clay Shaw was depicted in the Oliver Stone film, JFK (1991), and this work is in many ways an essential companion piece to that testament. Documents that Mellen has published in her earlier work show that Shaw was a “highly paid agency source”, which Garrison could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Shaw was guilty of perjury regarding relationships with Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie, two players in the mysteries culminating in the events of Dealey Plaza. Garrison’s suspicions were well founded, but his efforts to prosecute Shaw for perjury on other matters were blocked. The winds of time have exposed a great deal of information, which has been battling tremendous efforts in the major media to obfuscate what has been brought to light. The case can be frustratingly described as one step forward and two steps back.
Lyndon Baines Johnson has been credited by biographers for his work in forming a Great Society and for “fighting for racial equality”. Nonetheless, Martin Luther King Jr. was disgusted with Johnson’s policies and saw them as delivering very little real change. When King was invited to the White House to celebrate the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, he instead ignored the offer and went to Selma, Alabama. Later, King would speak out against the Vietnam War as being a policy of violence and horror, on April 4th, 1967. A year to the day later, King would be assassinated, another leader felled by bullets. We have not come any closer to achieving anything closely resembling MLK’s ‘dream’ since the breath was violently taken from his body. Instead, we have become a morally ‘rudderless’ nation, prone to exporting violence and stifling the rights of free speech through the intimidation of Orwellian surveillance. President Kennedy would seemingly be aghast of a government so deeply afraid of it’s own citizenry.
When LBJ ran for the presidency, his campaign painted his rival Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona as a madman bent on leading us into nuclear war. A historic commercial depicted Johnson as the candidate for peace, with his voice-over stating that “we must love each other, or die.” A child plucked petals from a daisy, followed by the image of a nuclear explosion. After Johnson came into office, 58,000 Americans would die fighting in Vietnam under his escalation and 2 million Vietnamese would perish, as well. It doesn’t seem in retrospect that we learned to love each other under Lyndon. Goldwater seems to have had nothing on Johnson in the realm of warfare, despite LBJ’s bending perception with political pliers so masterfully employed in the art of propaganda.
Author Mellen brings to light the events of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, on June 8th, 1967. Rescue efforts were recalled, and LBJ is reported as saying that he did not give a damn if the ship sank and he would not embarrass an ally. This transpired on the fourth day of the Six Day War, and Israel shot torpedoes, napalmed and fired machine guns at the American craft. Egypt was to be blamed, but an S.O.S. was sent blowing the operation. The author explained, “Heroic efforts by crew members are the only thing that kept them from sinking. It was a fine effort by our Navy.” Mellen continued, “They would get rid of Nasser and blame Egypt for the sinking of the Liberty. The airplanes on their way to Egypt had nuclear tips.” If these actions had been played out to their fruition, it is chilling to contemplate just how dire and apocalyptic they were in nature.
Johnson’s scandal is covered by most official biographies, but it’s rank odor emanates from just under their covers. “Most biographies do not mention Billy Sol Estes, Bobby Baker or Mac Wallace”, explains Mellen. LBJ would be worth an estimated 25 million dollars by the time he left office and his minions were eventually to be prison bound. Baker, known as ‘Little Lyndon’ was rife with financial scandal and Estes was knee deep in cotton allotment wrongdoing and murder. Wallace was himself a convicted murderer, whose exact links to LBJ are difficult to decipher. The olfactory sensation gleaned from a sniff of any of this is far from that which can be confused with the scent of roses. Where there is theft and strange deaths, LBJ does not seem to be very far away.
Malcolm Everett Wallace attended the University of Texas and was elected student body president in 1944. Homer P. Rainey was president of the school and was in the mold of John Dewey, at the time, a most controversial figure. In the years before McCarthyism, Rainey was removed from his position at the school and Wallace had championed his cause. Wallace displayed his skills as a leader and was a large fish in the small pond in which he swam. Yet, Rainey’s dismissal would scar Wallace as well and he would never reach the same heights again in his lifetime. Moral assurance seems a deciding factor to the young and ages those who find it abandoned by the scales of justice. Wallace also lost his deepest romantic love at this time, one Nora Carroll. Neither of the lovers would find fulfillment in the arms of another. Wallace’s life was knocked askew and any real correction would elude him through the coming decades.
“Wallace lost his love and Rainey lost his position”, explained Joan Mellen. “He never really recovered from that.” Indeed, the ex-Marine would float from positions in government service and drift into alcoholism and broken marriages. The potential so brightly displayed during his academic career would never be realized once he departed from the University of Texas. Mac Wallace would drift into the sphere of Lyndon Johnson and find work in the Department of Agriculture. Wallace would also later hold a security clearance working in the defense industry, despite a murder conviction. Many have speculated on how this came to be and what force worked behind the scenes in his favor. The questions all seem to lead to the influence of Lyndon Johnson.
Wallace would join the LBJ entourage and wind up sleeping with Johnson’s sister, Josefa Johnson. The insatiable Josefa would move on to golf pro/actor Joseph Douglas Kinser. In turn, Kinser would also bed Wallace’s wife, Mary Andre, and more than golf required a scorecard. This farce of use would find Kinser asking the loose-lipped Josefa to use her influence to obtain a small business loan for his pitch and putt golf course from her brother. Josefa’s inability to stem her own gossip may have given Kinser campaign information on improprieties (such as the Box 13 scandal), which could be used as potential blackmail against LBJ.
Mac Wallace stormed over to Kinser’s business and went about shooting him in the groin and other extremities. Wallace would be arrested and invoke the name of LBJ while in custody. His trial would make no mention of Josefa Johnson and irregularities abounded. Wallace did not plead guilty and did not use the Paramour Statute found in the penal code of Texas. Wallace would be found guilty of premeditated murder. He was given a suspended sentence of time served, which was a total of about 25 hours. If not convicted of a felony in the next five years, the conviction would be expunged from Wallace’s record forever. This summary of events led many to wonder if LBJ reached D.A. Bob Long and pressured him into allowing this case to slip through his fingers. Wallace was defended by LBJ lawyer Polk Shelton. The long arm of influencing the law extending from the shoulder of Lyndon Johnson certainly seemed to have been in play. LBJ’s fingers were seemingly very slippery, yet often did not leave prints on what they touched.
Wallace would also go on to become a legend, responsible for a range of deaths including that of Henry Marshall. In his position as a clerk in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, Marshall would investigate the actions of Billie Sol Estes and cotton allotments, and refuse a promotion to end his efforts. On June 3rd, 1961, Marshall was found dead of suicide. Marshall’s rifle lay beside his body and he was said to have shot himself five times. An exhumation would later lead to the conclusion that the death was not a suicide.
George Krutilek, Estes’ chief accountant, was found dead on April 4th, 1962. Despite a bruise on his head, this death was labeled a suicide. Harold Orr and Coleman Wade were indicted with Estes a day after Krutilek’s death. Orr and Wade would also die under mysterious circumstances and Estes would weave tales of truth mixed with fiction that many are still attempting to unravel. Many that could potentially envelop LBJ in scandal were leaving the world under extremely murky circumstances. Estes would name Mac Wallace as the wanton murderer employed by the Johnson regime. The carnage attributed to Wallace resulted in creating an urban myth of great import, based solely on the testimony of Billie Sol Estes.
“Estes was an admitted liar”, explained Mellen. “There is no evidence that Wallace was responsible”, she added. The author explained that Estes may have been responsible himself for some of these deaths and that Estes word was worthless. Incriminating tapes that Estes supposedly held regarding these matters never were produced by him or his estate to this date. The allegations seem to lead to LBJ’s circle, but the identity of the hit man is open to question. None of this leaves Lyndon Johnson coming across as very wholesome in any shaking out of these events.
Mac Wallace would be blamed not only for these deaths, but would also go on to be named as the assassin who killed JFK. A fingerprint left on a box in the Texas School Book Depository was linked to Wallace and he was named as a possible shooter. In a 1998 press conference, researcher John Fraser Harrison would announce the unidentified print from the National Archive was that of Mac Wallace. The allegation would lead many researchers to conclude that LBJ must have been the mastermind of the demise of JFK, replacing the mafia as the culprit du jour. Wallace’s death in a car accident in 1971 left suspicions regarding him all the more appealing to many in the JFK research community. Wallace was left shrouded in mystery and shadows, and this conclusion was alluring to many.
“The fingerprints used initially to identify Wallace were smeared and taken at the time of the Kinser murder. Photocopies of these prints were used when these conclusions were drawn”, explained Mellen. Prints unavailable to researcher J. Harrison were recently released by the Navy and the author obtained them. “The prints from the Navy in 1939 were clear as a bell”, she continued. These were turned over to Robert Garrett, a certified print examiner, who had studied at Quantico. The conclusion from the examiner was that there was no match and the print from the sixth floor was not Wallace. As the last domino fell, Mellen had exculpated Mac Wallace from being the murderer of JFK. Mellen had displayed clearly the malfeasance of LBJ’s administration, while casting serious doubt on the recent popular theory that LBJ was the mastermind behind Dealey Plaza.
Faustian Bargains is an essential read to understand Lyndon Baines Johnson and the events of his presidency. Author Joan Mellen has added to her body of work regarding the Kennedy assassination and, as usual, no serious researcher can ignore her latest offering. The author speaks from the realm of conscience and well documented fact. As Kennedy’s limousine made a slow and sharp turn onto Elm Street, our history took a horrific turn for the worse only seconds later. The President’s vision for America was inexorably altered and the country began a descent into war and erosion of rights. This work is an essential tool for anyone seeking to understand what transpired behind a veil of lies and deceit. Johnson’s ascent to the presidency certainly shielded him from scandals surrounding Billie Sol Estes and Bobby Baker. The best lies are based on truth, and suspicion of LBJ being the main force behind the murder of President Kennedy seems to be an easy answer. The truth behind these matters does not appear to be quite so easy, however. LBJ was only one major player involved in Faustian Bargains at the time. Jim Garrison’s proposed solution to the crime of the century seems very solid today, as the last page in this effort is finished. The author has done Garrison another excellent service and kept us on the trail of the assassins.